What To Wear To A Black Tie Optional Affair

Q. I am attending a black tie optional affair and am wondering what to wear? Female/35. Some of the ladies are wearing slacks, but this is an affair where all the bigwigs will be attending and I want to make a statement. What should I wear?

A. At a black tie optional affair, men wear tuxedos or dark suits and women wear everything from gowns to dressy cocktail dresses. Slacks can be difficult to pull off, but if you choose to go this route, make sure that they are dressy evening pants and pair them with a glamorous top, great jewelry and heels.

Since you want to dress to impress, a dress always offers the greatest impact. Look for luxe fabrics and special details. Here are a few black tie optional choices that demonstrate the range of appropriate attire:

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1. Maggy London Chiffon Gown with Charmeuse Waist, $158 at nordstrom.com
2. Adrianna Papell Shutter Pleat Satin Dress, $158 at nordstrom.com
3. JS Boutique Beaded Waist Cutaway Dress, $158 at nordstrom.com
4. Carmen Marc Valvo Satin Pants, $210 at saks.com

  • Julie

    I’ve noticed in your recent columns about black tie optional affairs that you have recommended dresses that were not floor length. I would much rather wear one of the dresses you’ve highlighted in stylebakery for a November wedding than pull out a long black dress from the closet . One of my friends insisted black tie optional meant floor length and now I’m confused. Thanks!

    • StyleBakery

      Thanks for your question. We hate to say it, but your friend’s advice is incorrect. Black Tie Optional is just that: optional. This means that a floor length gown is acceptable, but certainly not expected or required. A shorter length dress is a more modern approach to Black Tie Optional dressing. If men can wear everything from tuxedos to dark suits, then women can wear everything from long gowns to dressy cocktail dresses. Great news for you!

  • Ola

    I will be attending a wedding in November that’s dress code is “black tie optional,” I was wondering whether I may be able to wear a long leopard print silk dress? I’m 20 and the dress is very long and does not look slutty at all but am afraid that it would not be appropriate. Do you have any other suggestions as to what else I may wear if not the leopard dress. Thank you!

    • StyleBakery

      Hmmmm. Leopard can be tricky. Even though your dress isn’t “slutty”, you still run the risk of drawing too much attention to your dress. And since it’s the bride’s day, it’s best not to wear anything that screams “look at me!” Instead, save your leopard dress for some upcoming holiday parties or new year’s eve where you can take more of a fashion risk.

  • http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3010755?Category=&Search=True&SearchType=keywordsearch&keyword=sequin+evening+dress+in+All+Categories&origin=searchresults Shay

    I loved this dress so I bought it for a black-tie optional event but I am having some concerns that maybe it’s “too nice” a dress to wear since I am a guest and not an honoree at this event. It is a professional law-related event, outside my industry. Do I have some latitude to just enjoy my dress if my husband is wearing a tux or should I wear something more conservative? I don’t have too many choices – I could wear a silver satin wrap top with rhinestone cufflinks and black pants. I would love to hear back from you. P.S. I’m in my late 30’s.

    • Jennifer Davidson

      Pretty dress! It is a bit on the “glam” side so be sure to wear subtle jewelry. If you look and feel great in it, then we say, wear it to your black tie optional affair. Next to your husband in his tux, you will look appropriately dressed.

  • Barbara

    We are invited to a “black tie optional” New Years Eve wedding. Can I wear a black knit wrap dress with high heeled patent leather black boots and some glam jewelry and/or belt? My husband will be in a dark suit. We are healthy, stylish almost 60 year olds.

    • StyleBakery

      Yes! This sounds like a very chic outfit. Make the jewelry/belt as glam as possible to dress up the knit dress. Have fun!

  • http://www.eastbridal.com eastbridal

    This is such a cute cocktail dress. I like the pink one best, though. But for a wedding, I think this is a really nice cocktail party dress.

  • http://www.eastbridal.com eastbridal

    This is such a cute cocktail dress. I like the pink one best, though. But for a wedding, I think this is a really nice cocktail party dress.

  • Veronica

    Hi, I would like to ask you if woman can wear high heel boots for black-tie optional, yes or no?

  • Veronica

    Hi, my friend and I will going to gala next month on December that everyone will wear for black-tie optional. I wonder if woman can wear cocktail knee dress with high boot, yes or no?

    • StyleBakery

      If your boots are somewhat dressy (sleek, black, thin heel) then you can wear your high boot. If the boot is chunky or casual, then no. Good luck!

  • Erin

    You mention that men can wear “dark” suits. My husband has a suit in dark gray, but I wonder if “dark” is actually limited to black/off-black suits. His suit also has a vest, so it can be dressed up more than a business suit, but I’m wondering if it’s appropriate for something termed “black-tie optional”?

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